By Jamie Hand & Heidi Hattendorf

The Illinois Diversity Council recently sponsored twin “Women in Leadership Symposiums” with a unifying theme: ‘Be Fearless: Influence, Innovate & Inspire’. Panelists and participants brought unique perspectives from various industries, while expressing cohesive fundamental themes highlighted here:

Bloomington, IL – August 30th 2017 at COUNTRY Financial

Chicago – August 31st 2017 at Hyatt


Panelists at both conferences agreed on the importance of authenticity. “We all show up to work based on our own experiences,” said Dontae Latson. He continued, “If you aren’t allowed to be your authentic self at work, then your workplace is saying – We appreciate you being here, but not all of you.” Wendy Davidson added, “When you feel free to lead authentically, people will believe in you. People will follow titles, but will change the world for the person.”

Defining Your Impact

As a leader, you have a platform to speak up. Create credibility and “earn your way” by being outstanding at what you do and trusting your gut. These days, consumers look behind the package to what the brand actually stands for. “For big global brands, have the soul of a startup,” summarized Wendy Davidson. Many leaders also feel a ‘Not To Do’ list is just as critical as a ‘To Do’ list. It helps keep focus and prevents dilution of energies. They challenged participants: what you are going to stop doing to be more effective?

Switching Your Career

Jan Brandt shared how promotions and big achievements start with someone you trust sitting down across from you and saying “I have an opportunity for you.” It’s not going to be easy, but you’re not going to want to let them down. Diane Pearse, CEO of Hickory Farms, also emphasized focusing on transferrable skills and being great at what you do, no matter what it is. All agreed that successful leaders are constantly improving and enhancing themselves. You have to start with a drive for learning and a thirst for continual improvement. Focus on key quality relationships instead of a large, shallow network. Be more afraid of boredom than change!

Transforming the Rules of Engagement

The panelists also commonly expressed the belief that ‘there are no rules’. Most acknowledged there are certainly expected behaviors, but leaders must challenge themselves, take quality time to nurture yourself and the people in their lives, and be present when with them. Another point made was that with risk comes failure. As leaders, we need to acknowledge our own mistakes. Our teams must see other people missing the mark, handling it gracefully and learning.

Pay Gap

The reasons for the gender wage gap are varied, but a major factor discussed is that women may be more reluctant to negotiate salaries. This is the case even when women know they should, want to, and have been actively coached to do so. In general, women are relationship-driven. Some of this hesitancy stems from a fear that negotiating will damage a relationship before it even begins. Men, on the other hand, may be more likely to think negotiating is exciting and fun. For more information on this topic you check out Women Don’t Ask.

Social Media

Social Media is a powerful tool, and most of the participants indicated having at least two platforms they use. The resounding advice from all was to keep your business social media platform separate from personal. If you blend them, you may be confusing your brand and over sharing. It’s also important to be savvy with your security settings and don’t share personal photos to a large, public following. Be aware: trolls are targeting executives on social media these days! Also, use social media to inspire. Remember you’re a role model and can inspire girls on careers they don’t even know about: Girls can’t be what they can’t see.


Thank you to all of the sponsors, panelists, participants and both the Illinois and National Diversity Council for an outstanding platform to share powerful ideas and make new connections. We will continue to Be Fearless: Influence, Innovate & Inspire!

2165total visits,1visits today